The main aim of the first workshop of this ongoing study was to conduct exploratory, qualitative research to identify critical factors that appear to impact significantly on purchasing and supply in the public sector in the context of major government reform.
Leading international academics and very senior public procurement practitioners from 13 countries were invited to write and submit case studies. Guidance was provided on the content of the case and it had to address major government reform issues.
A 2 ½ day workshop was held in Budapest at which the case authors presented their cases. 15 cases were presented and critically evaluated by all case authors and invited senior practitioners and academics.
- To bring together a select group of the highest possible level of international academics and public sector practitioners in one forum
- To share and debate structured case studies of public sector services undergoing major reform
- To draw out the critical factors for each case that appear to have significant impact on purchasing and supply
- To analyse across all cases to observe similarities and differences
- To derive an initial framework for public sector purchasing and supply containing the critical factors that need to be managed in major government reform programmes
- To co-write joint academic papers to disseminate the findings to the rest of the academic community to be submitted for publication to the Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management and the Journal of Public Procurement. (Submission of papers will necessarily be some time after the event findings have been analysed and fully referenced papers written in the appropriate journal format)
- To publish a report for practitioners and academics in purchasing and supply
- To publish a book of international cases in public sector purchasing and supply for teaching and to inform those not attending the event.
This study was an exploratory study to undertake a comparative investigation of public procurement. There was a general ‘line of inquiry’, but no specific research questions; rather, all participants shared a desire to listen to each others’ accounts, and see what emerged.
Many expressed surprise at what they learnt was occurring in other nations, and several commented on the value of learning from similar cases to their own and from cases that differed greatly. Different structures, values, scales of operation, and many other factors, proved useful for comparison.
The other highly visible particularity of the study is that it demonstrated the extreme complexity in the multi-level systems that connect government policy, procurement policy, and practice in the supply market.
Whilst some very large, multi-national, diverse private sector groups exhibit complexity, the scale and nature of the complexity appears ‘simpler’ in the private sector than was observed in this study.
The process of drawing out research questions from this study will continue. However, some emerged during the event and participants expressed a desire to form a number of ‘communities of interest’. Notably these included:
- Public procurement as a lever of social reform
- Information to support public procurement
- Appropriate levels of procurement decision making in large, complex, confederal public sector networks
- Addressing the skills and competences shortfall
We propose to derive researchable questions from the communities of interest, then design IRSPP2 to be a themed, focused event that provides answers that move the subject area ahead on those themes.
We are grateful to the following organisations for their sponsorship, without which the workshop could not have taken place.